Cheap or Free Online Legal Research Options
September 4, 2013 7:14 AM   Subscribe

I am pulling together a list of cheap or free online legal research options to be used by solo practitioners instead of Westlaw or Lexis and I have two questions.

1) What cheap/free websites do you use for legal research?

2) If you have a specialized area of practice, what are your favorite websites for that practice area? (For example, I do criminal defense and check a particular sentencing blog pretty much daily.)
posted by *s to Law & Government (13 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I practice special education law, and my small firm subscribes to a service called Special Ed Connection. I don't recall how expensive it is, but it was cheaper than Westlaw/Lexis and better tailored for our practice area.

It's not free, but if you're in this field, it's a discount option.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:20 AM on September 4, 2013

I normally use Westlaw and Lexis, but I have tried out Fastcase. In many states and cities bar members have free access to at least the basic service, so it's easy to try out.

Patently-O is a useful blog for patent law.
posted by jedicus at 7:29 AM on September 4, 2013

Not sure if this is supposed to be local-to-you or a more general collection. Sites that I use that have good links and/or information.

- local courthouse websites for schedules, local laws/rules and names of people
- local tenant's union websites for renter's rights stuff
- local family law sites for helping people figure out where to even start looking for things like figuring out divorce/separation/custody issues

The American Association of Law Librarians has a very short list of resources with a few other pointers. I read LLRX which is helpful for knowing what is changing in the legal tools landscape.
posted by jessamyn at 7:29 AM on September 4, 2013

Google Scholar lets you search and read case law and law review articles.
posted by Arbac at 7:32 AM on September 4, 2013

Both bars that I am admitted to offer free legal research to members as part of their dues. Through them, I get access to Fastcase and Casemaker.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 7:47 AM on September 4, 2013

Response by poster: Not sure if this is supposed to be local-to-you or a more general collection.

More general is great, though if someone has a Texas-oriented suggestion, that would be useful too.
posted by *s at 7:50 AM on September 4, 2013

Seconding casemaker (through the bar association) and google scholar.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:52 AM on September 4, 2013

Fastcase is great.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:01 AM on September 4, 2013

I also get spammed for the Lawnet or some such service
posted by Ironmouth at 8:02 AM on September 4, 2013

This is for Canada, but CanLII is free and fantastic.
posted by Pomo at 2:44 PM on September 4, 2013

I use the Legal Information Institute for access to a lot of federal law.
posted by Dignan at 3:06 PM on September 4, 2013

I am a copyright and trademark attorney.

I often use when I am drafting something in a jurisdiction that I am unfamiliar with. For example, if I need to draft a proposed case management plan, I'll search for other IP cases in that jurisdiction for that judge by using justia, then I'll log into pacer to see if those cases have public filings of their case management plans.

Recent Trademark Trial and Appeal Board decisions are made available by the USPTO here: (click "retrieve decisions from the past 30 days")

For discussions about trademark law, The TTABlog (R) is great.

For discussions about copyright law, the Oppedahl Patent Law Firm has a very active listserv for copyright-related questions. Often solo practitioners use it to bounce ideas off of other attorneys. It looks like they have other listservs as well.
posted by Shebear at 4:30 PM on September 4, 2013

The Law Student Guide to Free Legal Resources has some awesome sources vetted by a librarian. One of the most important sources mentioned there for some kinds of research is the ABA Free Full Text Law Review search.

Google Scholar, mentioned above, also has a built-in citator. It's no Westlaw/Lexis/Bloomberg but it does perform one of the two citator functions: Find me more like this. a lot of our law students and solo practitioners find the natural language function of Google Scholar easier to use in the build a list of cases stage than Westlaw or Lexis. I will also second LLRX as a great source.

I really like Justia's Blawg search for finding relevant blogs in a practice area.

If you memail me your e-mail, I will give you the long list of free and low-cost resources that I give to my students after they finish Advanced Legal Research. It has some Florida things that will be less useful to you, but the rest would be helpful. (Anyone else who wants it is welcome to memail too.)
posted by eleanna at 9:21 AM on September 10, 2013

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